Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill

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Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill
Candlewick, September 2017.

12 year-old Rose Brautigan is a musical prodigy, has skipped several grades at school, and is cruising through college level math. Her twin brother, Thomas, on the other hand is just a regular kid. But over the course of one summer, their interests come together as they grow a giant pumpkin.

Rose herself starts off as an insufferable prig – she makes little allowance for others’ passions or foibles, and is very self-centered. The author neatly shows how the events of the summer are an awakening for her and she softens in her attitudes. Other characters are somewhat more two-dimensional. The denizens of Rose’s Minnesota neighborhood are remarkably varied – I hesitate to say it but it did feel a bit like the author had a diversity checklist she was working through (Japanese – check, Latinx – check, gay couple – check). However, Ms Hill does a nice job of showing how the pumpkin project brings the community together.

I found it very odd that Rose is eighteen inches taller than her twin brother and no explanation is ever given for this. Is it a medical condition? Is it something that can happen with fraternal twins? It’s not clear, and I’m not sure of the purpose of it either. It does emphasize their difference for sure, but then so does Rose playing cello while Thomas mucks about in the garden.

Overall, I found this a fairly pleasant read but it is very long at 448 pages for an upper elementary/lower middle school novel. And there is A LOT going on and it doesn’t always mesh together very well. The author clearly has some fascinating ideas and interests and has done her research thoroughly, but doesn’t quite manage to shape it all into a smooth flowing novel. Rose and Thomas are sad to learn that they should cull all but one of their pumpkins so all the growing energy can be focused on that biggest one – I rather feel that’s a metaphor for this novel.

Thanks to Candlewick for the review copy.

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2 responses »

  1. Great title! It made me wish the book were actually about a piece of music about pumpkins. Or maybe I just wish there were a piece of music about pumpkins! (Why have pumpkins not inspired innumerable sonatas and nocturnes? Oooh: the Pumpkin Nocturne. Someone needs to write that!)(Or make a dessert called that: did you read Robin McKinley’s Sunshine? Sunshine would make some sort of pumpkin-cheesecake-pastry-thing called the Pumpkin Nocturne.)(And now I’ve gone completely off-topic, and I’m hungry.)

  2. Fraternal twins are no more genetically similar than any other pair of siblings, so a big height difference would be just as conceivable as it would be between any sibs. Hope that answers your question; thanks for the review!

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